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A letter from Tom Goetz serving in Japan
May 2015 - Weaknesses and Strengths
Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
“Shine like stars in the dark world” not only is the school motto for Hokusei Gakuen University, but it is also a famous quote from Paul the Apostle. In his letter to the Christians in Philippi he told them to be blameless and innocent, as children are before God. In that way are we to “shine like stars in the world” (Phil 2:15c NRSV). And in all aspects we, as a university community, are walking our talk. In this message I wish to focus on what is going on in one aspect.
We should be proud when we consider our regard for students with disabilities, both physical and mental.Continue reading
A letter from Stephen and Brenda Stelle serving in Ethiopia
April 2015 - Thanksgiving in March?
Since coffee, corn and other main crops are collected and shipped to market in December, January and February, the traditional time for Ethiopians to thank God for the harvest comes during March. The Danka Church celebrated their Thanksgiving (galateeffannaa) on Sunday, March 22. All the church’s choirs (all seven of them) joined together to sing. Included in the service was a very meaningful candlelighting ceremony. In this observance seven candles (representing both the seven continents and the Biblical number of completion) were lit at the beginning of the worship service by seven different ministers. The Danka Church honored Steve by asking him to be the first pastor to light the very first candle, held by elder Teferi Dina, president of the Danka congregation. For the Danka Church and the Bethel Synods this was a symbol and a remembrance that a Presbyterian missionary, Dr. Thomas Lambie, first brought the saving message of Jesus Christ to the Oromo people of Dembi Dollo nearly 100 years ago.Continue reading
A letter from Amy Davisson Galetzka serving in Thailand
May 2015 - Annual Ministry Update, 2014
I work with the Pan Rak (‘Sharing Love’) Foundation in Thailand as the Deputy Director. I manage the staff and finances. I helped get the foundation registered in 2013 and am involved in the planning and formation of the organization whose vision is to share God’s love in tangible ways that bless people, to inspire relationships with God, and to help people share this love with others.
2014 was full and overflowing. I am thankful for all that happened, both the positive and the things that were challenging. I learned, continue to learn, and I am hopeful.Continue reading
A letter from Al Smith serving in Germany/Russia
April 28, 2015 - Planning Summer Camp
Spring has arrived here in Berlin: the flowers are blooming, the trees are leafing out, the grass is turning green. On the other hand, there was snow last week in Russia while I was there, and the temperatures are, shall we say, fluctuating. Nonetheless, one can tell spring is on the way, because everyone is getting ready for the big spring holidays, May 1 (Labor Day for most of the world outside the U.S.A.) and May 9, which this year marks the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany. Massive celebrations are planned for Moscow and many other cities.
After arriving in Moscow I took the last available train to Kursk, another 500 kilometers out, in order to spend some time with our colleague Pastor Andrey Beskorovainiy and discuss the plans for this year’s Roma children’s camp, as well as other evangelization trips Andrey has been asked to make. Andrey is the pastor of the Devlesko Lav (Word of God) church in Kursk and the only ordained Roma pastor in the Russian Baptist Union. Andrey and I have worked together for almost 10 years to help him bring God’s word to his people. The annual camp is a high point of the summer for many Roma children. The Roma people, more commonly known as gypsies, suffer from discrimination in housing, education and employment. Most Roma families are in dire financial straits, especially now when sanctions connected with the conflict in Ukraine are causing increased levels of unemployment all over Russia.Continue reading
A letter from Jacob and Aliamma George serving in South Sudan
May 2015 - Daily Encounters
Psalm 92:13-15: “Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing to declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
On a hot afternoon, while coming back from the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, Juba, we got down at the bus station and were walking home. There is a small shopping area where we can get some open-air groceries, bread, and a stall where two ladies fry chicken pieces on a makeshift stove on the floor. So we stopped by to buy some chicken pieces to bring home and modify for our lunch since there were no seating arrangements in that particular area. While turning back to go to the road, we saw a man sitting on the dusty ground, blocking us. He had his loose shirt covering the lower part of his body completely while he held out open arms. It is a common sight here due to fighting, war and accidents and no orthopedic surgery or treatment available. We thought he did not have legs and needed money to buy his lunch. Jacob put lunch money in his open hands. The man suddenly got up on his feet with a smiling face—a healthy, tall and happy-looking man. I (Aliamma) asked, “Do you think that God is happy to see this drama, when he gave you good legs and health to shine for Him?” “No, but I cannot get any job” the man answered in English.Continue reading
A letter from Claire Zuhosky serving in Niger
May 2015 - There Is No Greater Thing
With the start of the new year there have been many ups and many downs, as is the way with any journey, new points of reference along the way bringing you to a place of contemplation, the desire to boil life down to its bare essentials. When you lose everything that this world has to offer you, when you come face to face with your worst nightmares, when you are an alien to the world around you, when all the dross has burned away, what remains? What truths sustain the purpose of your every breath? My reflection has brought me to the words from one of my favorite worship songs, “Knowing You”:
All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres, and wars to own
All I once thought gain, I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this
Knowing you Jesus, Knowing you
There is no greater thing
It happened very suddenly and all at once. March 15, 2015, came and went with a marked impression. All that I had come to possess in this world of seeming value was decimated to ash and smoke. This fire came into my life with a taste of finality; it did not even allow me the decency of a good fight. I arrived at the scene too late to be of any help. Because I had the only key to my bedroom, they were not able to force entry for some time, and by then the fire had devoured its fill.Continue reading
A letter from Debbie Blane serving in South Sudan
May 2015 - Back in South Sudan!
Greetings from Juba, South Sudan!
I reached Juba on April 2, returning after nearly a year and a half of being absent. Colleagues met me at the airport and after my trunks were examined by immigration, I was taken to the apartment that will be my new home while I am here.
Since I arrived on Maundy Thursday, government offices soon closed for a long weekend. Good Friday, the Great Easter Vigil of Saturday, Easter, and then Easter Monday were all spent away from desks and phones. So while I was supposed to register my presence within three days I was not able to do so until Tuesday.
The Nile Theological College has relocated to Juba. Malakal in the Upper Nile State has been unfortunately rendered unsafe and unliveable by the fighting between government forces and rebel forces. Homes have been burned, civilians murdered, and there is no safety to be found except at the United Nations Protection of Civilians (POC) site, where thousands of South Sudanese have sought shelter. Therefore the college has relocated.Continue reading
A letter from Bob Butterfield in the U.S., retiring from service in Portugal
April 2015 - Tearful Departure
Dear Friends in Mission,
Keiko and I have just (April 21) returned to the U.S. We want to thank you all again for the loving support you gave our work in Portugal and also share with you some of the best reasons to be actively involved in mission.
In the four and a half years we spent working with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Portugal, we did our best to help meet the church’s needs at the national, regional, and local level, and that meant our being engaged in a whole variety of activities. But at no time did we think that our contribution was so special. In fact, we often felt that whatever we were doing, a Portuguese pastor + spouse could do much better, and that the two congregations I served as teaching elder were not getting all the pastoring they really should have been getting from me.
Imagine our surprise, then, when the farewell parties for our departure in April 2015 began at Christmas 2014 and continued non-stop until April 19. During that four-month stretch our parishioners invited us to Sunday dinner every single week, and each time people killed the fatted calf (or piglet) for us. The worship services followed a similar pattern. When, at the conclusion of worship, I asked if there were any announcements, someone would stand up and tearfully testify to the impact we had had on their lives, and then we all cried and cried some more. And in the last few weeks before our departure the crying, kissing, and hugging grew more and more intense. In short, Keiko and I have never before been cried over, kissed over, or fussed over quite that much.Continue reading
A letter from Bob and Kristi Rice serving in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
May 2015 - Launching Savings Groups
Mamu Ntumba sells plastic bags, tiny portions of salt, and other small items near Kananga’s central market. Her stall is a small simple table with a stick that props up a plastic bag, and her small items are spread out on the table. The total value of her stock on the table is less than $20. Yet she is exuberant as she describes how her income from this stall helps to support her and her children. After her husband died, Mamu Ntumba struggled desperately to feed and support her children. In her Presbytery of Tshibashi, they started a microfinance program with help from their sister presbytery in the U.S. Mamu Ntumba attended the training, along with about 30 women received a small loan of about $30, and was able to establish her stall at the market. She faithfully repaid the loan in small weekly installments. Unfortunately this story is not all roses—a loan program like this, however small, requires skilled oversight, strict accountability, and significant investment to be able to continue. Lacking in some of these areas, the program in Tshibashi lost steam and is currently on hold.Continue reading
A letter from Nancy Dimmock serving in the U.S.
April 29, 2015 - Inspiring Stories
See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land (Song of Solomon 2:11-12).
So it is in our new place and in our family. It feels like we have come through a hard physical winter and a winter of the soul. We are still adjusting and very much “in process,” but we are now able to lift our eyes, to notice much beauty around us. Granted, it is not the familiar tropical beauty of flamboyant trees and bougainvillea, but the beauty of dogwoods and azaleas. It is springtime in Louisville, Kentucky.
I have been reflecting on what a privilege it has been to serve a 30-year assignment to “ends of the earth” and to experience God’s incredible faithfulness through it all. Remembering this, we can look to our future as continuing in God’s service with much hope.Continue reading
A letter from Marta Bennett serving in Kenya
April 2015 - Hope Out of Horror
It is April, and the long rains have come in Kenya. Last night our road was literally a white-water road-wide torrent—not deep enough to raft, but rapid enough to overflow the drain ditches and to have ripples and waves rushing down the slope past our gate.
It is April in East Africa, and the long rains have once again set in. In the past, the pounding night rains have lulled me to sleep, safe, snug under my quilt, though vaguely aware of so many who lie down to sleep surrounded by mud walls, worrying about mudslides. At the same time, rain in any form here is called a blessing, where livelihood and the prediction of well-being for the following season is dependent on God’s provision of blessed rain. But now, at this time in April, each evening as it begins to pour in Nairobi, one wonders, is it blessing this year, or a weeping for “Rachel’s children,” for those murdered by terrorism and violence? First at Garissa University, mostly the Christian students singled out, then African foreigners in South Africa, now Ethiopian believers in Libya. I think of Sometimes in April, a powerful film set in the context the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Early in the movie the main character reminisces as he stares out at the heavy rain, “Yes it’s April again. Every year, every day the haunting memories. Every year in April, I remember how quickly life passes, and every year I remember how lucky I should feel to be alive. Every year in April, I remember.” Here we are in April once again, with more collected tragedies to be remembered.Continue reading
A letter from Dan Turk serving in Madagascar
April 22, 2015 - Death of a Legend
I had last ridden a motorcycle in 1995 and thought that my motorcycle days were over. That changed on Saturday, February 28, 2015, when Daniel Rakotoarinala said, “There’s some sad news: Dadamonjy has also died.”
Dadamonjy was a living legend who lived at Ambohimitombo in the heart of Zafimaniry country at the western edge of Madagascar’s rainforest. Ambohimitombo is 50 km SE of Ambositra at the end of a road often best described as a muddy mess. The Zafimaniry people are famous for their woodcarving and received recognition from UNESCO in 2003 for their woodcarving heritage. Dadamonjy was probably the foremost cultural ambassador of the Zafimaniry people, at the forefront of efforts to keep Zafimaniry knowledge and traditions alive. In 2009 he proudly went to Algeria to represent Madagascar at a cultural festival.
At the time of his death Dadamonjy was also president of the local forest protection organization, coach of the youth soccer team, and advisor to the mayor. He and his wife had held many leadership positions over the years at the FJKM church at Ambohimitombo. The FJKM, which is the Malagasy acronym for the Church of Jesus in Madagascar, is PC(USA)’s partner church in Madagascar. Many FJKM churches, like the one at Ambohimitombo, do not have pastors, so lay leaders play very important roles in the life of the congregations.Continue reading
A letter from Choon Lim serving as Regional Liaison for East Asia, based in South Korea
April 2015 - Two Anniversaries
The 130th Anniversary of the Korea Mission was celebrated in April 2015. Horace G. Underwood, a Presbyterian mission worker, brought the Good News to Korea on April 5, 1885, on Easter. The Good News came through Incheon, and his prayer was heard in words something like these: “I arrived here on Easter morning. On this morning the Easter Lord who was raised from the death of the prison iron bars, which were destroyed, will destroy the Korean people’s bondage of iron chains so that they can gain freedom as God’s children.”
August 15, 1945, Korea gained freedom from Japan’s bondage of 36 years. This year Korean people celebrate the 70th anniversary of Liberation (Independence) Day of Korea. Seventy years ago Korea received special grace from God through the UN’s (especially the U.S.A.’s) help. So Korean people can never forget the U.S.’s mission work for the Korean peninsula and the freedom given to them. But there is still undone work: the reunification of the divided Korean peninsula.Continue reading
A letter from Kay Day serving in Rwanda
May 2015 - Pulling Together
Dear Family and Friends,
At the moment the sun is shining and the sky is clear, but this is the rainy season and the beauty will not last long. We enjoy the sun when it comes. This is also the time of remembrance of the genocide in Rwanda, now 21 years ago. Commemorations happen throughout this period, rain or shine. Two weeks ago was the remembrance at Kirinda, the second mission station of the Presbyterian Church in Rwanda. The remembrance begins by the river, where many people were chased and murdered and then their bodies thrown in the river. The bodies have never been recovered. The rains began early in the morning of the commemoration, just as it had on the day the killings began. We stood in the downpour and remembered. Then we got in our cars and began the procession up the hill to the mission station, about five kilometers.
The steep dirt road, with twists and turns, had turned to slick mud, making it at times like driving on ice. About a kilometer from the mission station the rain let up, but the road became treacherous. The procession stopped as several cars slid and blocked the road. Many decided to get out and climb the hillside beside the road, leaving the cars to the drivers. So up we went, at a 45 degree angle, for about 100 yards, until the path joined the main road, over rock and mud. My colleague Pastor Esther was on my left and my student Elisee was on my right. We followed the path of those in front of us, picking our way over the rocks. When it became very slick Esther took one of my arms and Elisee the other to assist me through the mud. At one point as all three of us slid backwards, I felt a firm hand on my lower back, pushing me forward as I dragged my “crutches” up with me. When we made it to the top, we stood and laughed about how many Rwandans it took to get one mzungu (white person) up a muddy slope.Continue reading
A letter from Ryan and Alethia White serving in Germany
March 2015 - Spring and New Life
Salaam, Grüße, Greetings from Berlin where spring is breathing small whispers of its promised coming. Having lived now through our first full set of seasons since before our eight years in Southern California, we can report that winter has been harder on us than we anticipated. Although we’ve now been in Berlin for over a year, the darkness and cold of the city in winter along with at least six straight weeks of illness in our family disrupting our daily routines have taken quite the physical, mental, and at times spiritual toll.
We are excited that we have made it through our first year of adjustment here and feel thankful to live in a neighborhood we enjoy and to have formed the very beginnings of a community here, both within the church and elsewhere. But we have also struggled more with our sense of place in regard to our work and how best we can take part. It has been hard to know what to say by way of description of our work in the past few months, but we have been able to participate more during the weekly social work sessions, which have been both good practice in listening to people’s stories in Farsi and also eye-opening as to their situation since leaving Iran and arriving in Berlin. The immigrant issue is a hot topic these days in Germany, with Berlin expecting an estimated 15,000 new refugees (not just from Iran) this coming year. This represents quite a rise in numbers from the previous years, so politicians and social and religious organizations are all trying to decide how to manage this trend. We have also had the opportunity to hear from many Afghan refugees in recent months, who have their own set of extremely challenging circumstances.Continue reading
Thank You and Your Family for serving God by taking His word so far from Your Home.
God is doing his work and using us a tools in other nations.during my working here in Athens i observed that there are many oppertunities to share the Gospel massage with other those do not know Jesus and we can bring them to Jesus Christ.Please prayer for me that i'm a very littel to that God is using me here in Athens Greece. God bless you.